Thursday, March 17, 2016
I live in North Bay which is directly adjacent to the Bay Hill Golf Course. Once a year my quiet suburban street becomes a driveway for all the manic golf fans intent on finding a parking spot right at the Bay Hill Golf Club. A residents pass card comes in the mail that must be kept in my car so that I am not turned away from access to the drive home. Parking at Bay Hill is very limited. Some neighbors allow parking on their lawns and then golf cart access to the entrance. Ten temporary lots are created just for this event on the golf course greens. Cars park all over the rolling greens with black mesh fencing put in place probably to protect some cars from stray golf balls. I took a stroll down to the course one evening to get a sketch of the circus atmosphere. Cars were leaving in a steady stream. Mini buses were parked to transport workers, volunteers and attendees to off site parking lots.
It was the golden hour right before the sun set. Trees lit up y warm orange. A Peregrine falcon swooped over the golf course. Puzzle piece foam pads try to protect some grassy areas from the worst of the automotive tire damage. I decided to set up across from the Invitational entrance. Historic billboard photos lined the drive with photos of past Invitational winners. The competition began in 1954. A family waited to be picked up. Clearly the competition for the day was over and this was the time of the mass exodus.
The Invitational began on March 14th and continues through March 20. A Practise, Pro-Am badge is $50 for the week, allowing you to follow your favorite player on their practise rounds on Monday through Wednesday. A weekly club house badge is $250 allowing on site parking, access to the clubhouse and great views of the greens.
The Arnold Palmer Invitational holds a place of high stature in professional golf. The tournament, one of the premiere-event jewels on the PGA Tour, annually attracts one of the strongest fields of the season to one of the circuit's finest courses with the entire production overseen and directed by one of the game's all-time greats, Arnold Palmer. Its stature is attributable primarily to Palmer and the tremendous respect that he has among his peers in tournament golf.
I hare never actually sketched and reported on the tournament. I only realize it is going on when traffic gets crazy and blimps circle overhead. Some year, I need to get a press pass and spend a solid day sketching the event.